White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Villa Reale di Marlia, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy



Villa Reale di Marlia, was owned by noble families throughout its history and even included Napoleon's sister, Elisa Baciocchi, when in 1805 she held the title of sovereign of Lucca. The villa is situated about 5 miles north of Lucca. Construction began in the 15th century.  Today, owners the Pecci-Blunt family, have restored the grounds and have opened the property for tourists to visit and wander for a fee.


The villa itself is a rather traditional rectangle sitting grandly on a circular carriageway entrance. (Visitors are not permitted in the building.)


The portico must have arched over quite a few entrances to fancy parties back in the day. And now, step around to the back of the house........


..... here's what they had for a backyard. A yard, pond, trees, gardens, and a view that stretches out forever.

Walking down the yard and looking back at the villa, this panorama shows both the main Villa at left and the smaller Villa del Vescovo on the right. The panorama distorts perspective - the Villa del Vescovo is actually perpendicular to the long expanse of yard. (Panorama - click on the image to view full width).

Villa del Vescovo has seen better days but it still stands with its classic lines and curves.

The tale of construction methods is visible where the stucco has fallen off.

The property is laced with carriage and footpaths to maneuver among its many acres (30-40 acres is my guess) of gardens, ponds, trees, plantings, and lawns.

One of the formal gardens.

I was particularly taken with this sculpture of Saturn.  The detail in his forehead is unbelievably lifelike. The property offered a beautiful and peaceful way to spend an afternoon wandering on a perfect spring day.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Castello Nozzano, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

The Nozzano Castle was built in the 12th or 13th century (I've read conflicting sources). Its purpose was to defend Lucca against attack from the Pisans.  Nozzano is on the north side of the Serchio River and Pisa had constructed a corresponding fortification on the south side. Lucca and Pisa are about ten miles apart as the crow flies, longer on foot, horse, or car to get around the intervening hills.

This location was no more than ten minutes outside Lucca. The castle was not accessible so there were no other tourists when we were there on this gray, showery morning - but we had a great lunch at the bottom of the hill in a local restaurant - local families, regulars, no tourists (except us).

Nearby is this grand villa.

And spring is still in bloom. 


Monday, April 28, 2014

Italian Essentials, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy


This post is a few observations about Italian life. What better place to have lunch than in Piazza dell' Anfiteatro, once a site of an oval shaped Roman amphitheatre.

And always, l'amore is in the air.

And bread, wine, and for some tourists a horse-drawn carriage. 

And just a few of the gelato choices in a typical gelateria - it's early in the day, each bin is still full.

Gelato - if you add up all the Starbuck's, McDonald's, Burger King's, and 7-11 stores in the United States you would still not reach the total number of gelato shops in Italy.  Okay, that's an exaggeration but, wow, there sure are a lot of gelato shops here.

And a stylish young Italian woman hanging out in the sunshine talking on her cellphone.

I like both images - one shows more sense of place, the other more sense of person.

Sometimes I forget that this is a real town with real people trying to live their lives as we tourists wander about aimlessly clogging their streets and pointing cameras at them. This flower market helped me remember that reality - these are potted flowers, plants, and bulbs - not suitable for tourists to buy and transport home.  This is their home and they keep it beautiful, inspiring, and grand.

Before these centuries-old buildings were built, and the restaurants and shops were opened, this space was the scene of a 10,000 seat Roman amphitheatre - imagine that.


Two young friends sitting on a stone bench in a narrow lane enjoy the final warm rays of sunshine on this picture perfect day in Lucca. 

As the light faded, we sat at the only outside table at this cafe near one of the portals.  And we sat for three hours and watched the best movie in the world - the constant stream of humanity leaving the city and others entering for dinner, drinks, or wandering.

In the gathering darkness, folks sit down to dinner about 8.30pm and later. No senior specials at 5pm like in the United States.

All these Italian essentials (and many more) add up to one thing:  "la dolce vita" - the sweet life, the good life.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Random Scenes Around Town, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

A nice stone arch setting for an indoor fruit and vegetable market. The greengrocer's young child bicycles around the stands as customers come and go. I love how Italians don't seem to sweat the small stuff, I mean really, so what if a kid rides a bike through the market? If you don't like it, go to another market.

This small fast stream quietly flows through town from north to south. And as always, someone bicycles by - young, old, or in-between. Often, little dogs ride in the front baskets.

This odd-looking creature, a Muscovy Duck, lives on the stream - he even has a doghouse styled home someone built for him. He has the best crown of feathers! Put a different face under that crown and he could be a rock star.

Even in the narrow lanes, a proprietor will set out a few tables for dining.  It is not necessary to be in a large piazza.

This piazza in front of San Martino Cathedral is quiet today..... 

....but not so on Easter Sunday as this procession begins to wind its way through town celebrating the Resurrection.

A line of parked motor scooters with their mirrors reflecting a bright overcast sky. This is another popular form of transportation within the walls as there isn't a lot of room for parking cars. That being said, it is not unusual to be wandering the narrow lanes with many other walking humans and have dogs, bicycles, baby carriages, motor scooters, cars, small buses, and delivery vans all vying for the same space at the same time - somehow it works out.

One of the bike rental shops offers these bright green models.

This was my patio view for our stay in Lucca. The church, one of nearly twenty within this small walled city, was formerly known as the Church of Santa Maria Forisportam. The name meant it was located outside the original Roman era wall.  Today, it is known as the Church of Santa Maria Bianca. It was built in the 11th -12th centuries.

A restaurant in town with an old vaulted brick ceiling. And speaking of restaurants, I have never seen a sign saying, "no shoes, no shirts, no service" anywhere around here.  I think the Italians are mostly far too classy to need such sentiments - in restaurants, they are often stylishly dressed, they laugh loudly, gesticulate wildly, hug and kiss, drink wine, and sometimes bring their dogs and children to the fun. They are animated and alive, not wrapped so tightly as many in the United States. It is a different culture here - there is a good reason they have been called  the birthplace of both the Renaissance and modern civilization.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Pietrasanta, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy


As is many Italian towns, a main piazza graces the center of Pietrasanta. Usually a church or cathedral anchors the piazza with a large stone paved area to wander, visit with friends, or sit down at a cafe/restaurant and eat, drink and relax. With Roman origins, the town was founded in the late 13th century. It is today a popular town for artists and art. 

At midday in this and many Italian towns, few local folks are out and about but the streets will bustle in a few hours. Many museums, businesses, and shops close in mid-afternoon for the Italian tradition called "riposo," like the Spanish tradition of "siesta."

Pietrasanta is located only a few miles from Cararra, the world renown marble quarries from which Michelangelo selected his marble for sculpting "David" and his other extraordinary pieces. This Escher-like floor in a local church is, of course, perfectly flat and made of marble tiles. The blown out sculpture by the plant is........

....this Madonna, also all marble - even her translucent veil is marble!

This sculptor's studio and shop is downtown along with many other artisan shops. Some of the works above are castings.  I don't know the story on the Kennedy piece but it seems out of place.

An art gallery on the piazza is about to receive this bust for an exhibit.

And like everywhere I've been in this part of Italy, there is a gelato store never more than a few hundred meters from wherever you stand.

But gelato or not, sometimes it's best to simply sit in the warm spring sunshine and enjoy being alive......

.....in some cases, alive for many years.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Guinigi Tower, Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

The Guinigi Tower was built by the Guinigi family, wealthy merchants back in the 1300's who built their home/villa/mansion and the attached tower. And yes, those are oak trees planted and growing on the top of the brick structure - specifically Holm Oak, generally known as holly oak.  Today, the city of Lucca owns and manages the property as a museum/tourist attraction. I took advantage of a crystal clear morning to climb to the top for the view.


The climb up is on a well supported staircase........



....with an occasional enticing view through small window-sized openings........





......but once you reach the top.......

....the view just goes on forever.  The next three images are panoramas, and the following five images are conventional more detailed views of the same areas. (Click on the panoramas to view in full width).

Westward view.

Southwestward view.

Southerly view.









A beautiful place, this city of Lucca. Last year, they celebrated their 500th year anniversary of the beginning of construction of the current surrounding wall. I think it should easily stand for another 500. You can get a hint of where the wall is located in the above photographs by the green lines of trees in the middle distance.